It was a typical lazy Saturday in November of 2005 (I’m too lazy to look up the exact date). The Miami Hurricanes had just crushed rival Virginia Tech in Blacksburg two weeks prior, and sat comfortably at #3 in the nation. USC and Texas were ranked #1 and #2 respectively, and if one of them had lost a late-season game, Miami could’ve found itself in the (Mythical) National Championship game. All the Canes had to do was beat Georgia Tech and Virginia at home…
We did not beat Georgia Tech. That night, watching 5’3” Reggie Ball go into the Victory formation, I knew it was over. Not just the game, but an era. As depressing as that moment was, it was almost compounded by the fact USC came dangerously close to being upset by Fresno State at home that same night. If we had blown a BCS championship berth that night (USC and Texas ultimately didn’t eff up), I’d be six-feet deep right now. Little did I know the impending future of Miami football almost buried me nevertheless. To summarize Miami football after the Georgia Tech debacle, I present to you a (per)version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (the slit-your-wrists remix):
12 BCS bowls for Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio St*, and Virginia Tech (at least 2 each)
11 double-digit losses
10th worst offense in the nation in 2007
9 fewer wins than Wake Forest from 2006 to 2008
8 home losses
7 losses surrendering 40 points
6 scoring outputs in single digits
5 measly wins in 2007
4 30-point losses
3 fired offensive coordinators
2 appearances in the top 25 between September 17, 2006 and September 17, 2009
1 Orange Bowl demolition
and an addendum to the song…
0 Coastal Division titles
I need some drank.
But it ain’t all bad. Randy Shannon had a shaky start (Did he REALLY call a timeout after an incomplete pass?!), but he appears to have found his sea legs. The rebuilding process (and yes it was a rebuilding job in 2007) has been slower than some expected, or accepted. Randy Shannon is not a wunderkind like Bob Stoops was when he burst onto the scene, but he has gotten incrementally better. The culmination of that improvement is the 2010 Miami Hurricanes.
This is the most talented Miami team since 2003, the last time Miami appeared in a BCS bowl game and finished in the top 5. And if the defense returns to vintage form, this will be the best Miami team since 2002, the year Miami won 12 straight games before blah blah blah*. But more importantly, this is the best coaching staff Miami has had in some time. A head coach is only as good as his assistants. Shannon had to stumble through a few hurttful missteps, but he’s finally assembled a proven staff. A little continuity doesn’t hurt, either. Miami returns the same coordinators for the first time since 2005.
The schedule is tough, but it will always be tough. Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Florida State, and some sporadically good ACC teams will always be formidable, and we insist on playing legitimate out-of-conference opponents (and rightfully so). Let’s take a look at this year’s slate:
Beatdown. We’ll beat them like that penitentiary team beat the Texas State Armadillos in “Necessary Roughness”. In fact, I think Allen Bailey was one of the dudes who came off the prison bus in that flick.
And away we go. I don’t need to oversell the importance of this game. Revenge, respeck, and everything in between. The Buckeyes* are a popular pick for the title game. Vegas has us somewhere around a 9-point underdog. A lot of pundits like us, but they don’t want to pick us (except Brian Griese, who has no ties to the city of Miami whatsoever, and no reason to hope for a Buckeye* loss…). I won’t say the season is a failure if we don’t win this game, but at a MINIMUM we need to be in position to win it in the 4th quarter. If we go to Columbus* and get blow’d out, I don’t know what to say. Like most football games do, I think this one comes down to the lines of scrimmage. If the line of scrimmage battle is a draw (or only slightly in their* favor), we win this game. We’re better everywhere except Lineback, and in some cases far better. However, if we get slapped around up front like the Champs Sports September Bowl, it could get ugly. I think we can run on them. We have a big Offensive Line across the board, the Buckeyes* are breaking in three new starters on the Defensive Line, and their front seven is relatively small. We’re a little green at Tackle, but if we can run, we can go max protect and throw the ball if the Tackles are struggling. I’m confident we can move the ball. I believe the game will come down to our D-line versus their O-line, which is very experienced. If we can’t stop the conventional running game, we’ll have difficulty. Ohio State* will be content to churn out 4-6+ yards at a time, and keep the ball out of our hands. And if they’re running right at us, then we’re exposed to read option plays on the edges, play action to the TEs, and the whole thing comes crumbling down. Our new D-Line coach Rick Petri can make his money this game.
I believe this is a classic “big game hangover” trap. Win or lose against Ohio State*, we could be on a detrimental emotional high/low, and Pitt is no pushover. They have a good defense, a great Tailback, and a great Wide Receiver. The good news is they’re breaking in a new Quarterback who will only be starting his third game (assuming he doesn’t implode, get injured, or die against Utah and New Hampshire).
Clemson has talent, but losing C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford will hurt. And defensively they lose Defensive End Ricky Sapp, both starting Cornerbacks, and their Free Safety is moving to Cornerback. I think they’ll be solid, but we’re simply better all over the place. And more importantly, this is an easy game to get up for. Brandon Harris expressed last year’s Clemson game was the one that got away.
What’s this? A home game? The road warriors return home to face the big rival. On paper, the Noles are a hot mess. They have Christian Ponder and a solid O-line, but they have no established threats at Running Back or Wide Receiver. Defensively, they’re undersized and inexperienced all over the place. I don’t think Mark Whipple will be dazzled by Florida State’s new cutting edge “zone defense”. I tried to look that term up, but it’s too new, and baffling. Stupid stuff can happen in a rivalry game, but if our defense shows up, this shouldn’t be a classic nail-biter.
Thad Lewis graduated.
We’re winning this game. The 2010 UNC game is analogous to the 2009 Georgia Tech game. Enough is enough. I don’t care who’s eligible for UNC in this game. Robert Quinn, Kendric Burney, Julius Peppers, Lawrence Taylor, whoever. We’re winning this damn game. How’s that for analysis?
Mike London won an FCS championship at Richmond, so he might do some good things in the state of Virginia. Just not this year. Their roster is shockingly untalented.
The Terps were dreadful last year. I expect them to be better, but they’re still a rather pedestrian team. Maryland has a knack for winning games it shouldn’t. That better not happen here.
Georgia Tech gets two extra days to prepare for us, so they can’t use the excuse of having to play seven games in a nine-day span or whatever their “murderers’ row” was. They lose B-Back Jonathan Dwyer and Wide Receiver Demaryius Thomas a.k.a. their entire passing game. Nesbitt might have twenty completions this season. All that said, this is gonna be a tough one. Georgia Tech is hard to prepare for without extra time. Hopefully the shock of the triple option wears off after a few seasons. If we have to, I believe we can win a shootout. We’re in a much better position to get crucial stops than they are. They’re converting to a 3-4 defense, and their defensive personnel just isn’t that good.
Ugh. Must we play Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech back-to-back every year? This is the third time in a row. We know what Virginia Tech will bring to the table: a stout defense, a solid Tailback, and a crap Quarterback. This year is no different. Don’t turn the ball over eleventy billion times, don’t have a kick blocked, don’t let their Tailbacks run wild, and we should win. Easier said than done, but we pretty much go back and forth with them. It’s our turn to win.
Skip Holtz is a good coach, so USF may not be in late-season meltdown mode at this point, but we’re still better at every single position. We gotta win this game. It’s Senior Day, it’s bragging rights for the South Florida guys on our roster, and there could be bigger things at stake, such as…
The ACC Championship Game versus (To Be Determined)
TBD is no joke. Every time Miami and TBD butt heads, it’s a barn-burner. This won’t be any different. TBD likes to establish the run, so we have to be ready for that. They also like to pass, so we have to be ready for that, too.
So there you have it. We should be 13-0 going into the BCS Championship game, right? Right?
No excuses. We’re not young. We’re not injured. All of the pieces are in place. Miami needs to be a contender this year. If not 2010, then when? That’s a question I don’t want to ponder.